Running away

I went for a run earlier this evening – it was my first run in almost three months, and only the fifth since lockdown began in March. I’ve been nursing a sports injury since February; it’s felt better over the past few weeks but on some days I still feel a twinge and I was going to hold off until it was gone.

But today, I felt extremely restless. And even after taking an afternoon nap to reinvigorate myself as I work through Sunday, I felt even more lethargic than before. Except that I could tell it was much more physical – my body wasn’t happy.

So, I wondered if I could do a short run – even just to ‘test’ out the injury. I decided instead to do some yoga, and I felt better but it was still lacking. As I was cooling down with Down Dog, I decided to lace up and go for a run.

By most standards, it wasn’t a bad run considering how out of shape I am. In fact, considering that I walked for 30-40% of the run – whether I thought I felt something at the injury – it’s quite good. I’m not sure how the injury will feel tomorrow; I hope whatever I felt on the road was just in my head, or just that area sore from very little attention for many months.

In terms of my body though, I feel so much better! I actually feel in my body again, something that I haven’t felt for months.

Fact of the matter is I haven’t managed to find much motivation to do any exercise. Over the past two months, even my yoga and mindfulness/meditation has become rather sporadic. I’m still spending most of my time at home, and I’m still cycling but only to get to places as opposed to exercising.

In general, I’ve been feeling ‘meh’.

I haven’t had much time to focus too much on my mental health though – the past few weeks have gotten busy again with some work that I’ve been doing – to earn some money, conduct fieldwork for a research project, and working on getting some academic publications out.

Here’s the honest truth: I’ve actually been super stress, and there are some things happening in my life at the moment that’s causing my anxieties to shoot up again. I realised this about a week ago, but I didn’t have the energy or space to manage it.

I think today, my body gave me a big sign. I don’t know if I can continue with the running if the injury is not completely healed, but this post is a reminder that I need to check in on my body and mind a little bit more.

The next two months is going to be wild, and I’m going to need to be in good shape to navigate it.

I’m going to take the rest of the evening off. A glass of wine, and maybe watch a musical. Apologies to anyone I owe work to – I’ll get started again tomorrow.

Yes, your lives matter too and that’s why Black Lives Matter

To my Malaysian friends and family.

Over the past few days, I’ve had some quite intense and difficult conversations with many of you about racism, specifically related to Black Lives Matter and how some of us are responding to it. Many of these conversations are about using the “All Lives Matter” argument against those showing solidarity with BLM.

So, I’m penning some of my thoughts down on here from these conversations – partially as a resource I can direct people to when the inevitable conversations keep happening, and partially because I hope it will shed some light on the issue for those who are going around “All lives matter”-ing.

I was initially hesitant to put energy into this, particularly because for a while now, I have been subscribing to Reni-Eddo Lodge’s wisdom (you can read a short version here or buy her book, which I believe sold out across the UK over the weekend but I heard it’s currently in reprint), but I am also aware that so much of the discourse – naturally, no doubt, because this is the system they live in – about the oppression of black people is framed against whiteness (or white supremacy).

This means that the language that movements like Black Lives Matter use, might not always speak to those of us from other part of the world where white-ness is not always the default – at least in our discourse (it still is, to be clear, and I’ll get to it later below).

The reason for this is clear. Black Lives Matter is a US movement, albeit one that has been gaining traction over the past few years, especially in other predominantly white countries.

This is an important distinction because one of the biggest criticism from those I’ve spoken to re: “all lives matter” are saying that it’s not just black people whose lives matter. Yes, absolutely – but that is not what they are saying.

Black Lives Matter isn’t saying that other lives matter less; they are saying that racism is bad, and wrong, and systemic and in the context that they exist in, black people are suffering – blindlessly killed – at the hands of the white institution.

What does this mean for those of us then in countries like Malaysia? To support Black Lives Matter is not to suggest that any of our lives matter less. Black Lives Matter is reaching out for help – to amplify their voice, to stand in solidarity, to be anti-racist, to donate – and what many of us who have been posting stories, images, links and more (as well as having conversations like these), is responding to this call and standing by them.

What groups we stand for in the battle against racism doesn’t need to be mutually exclusive. My friend, the thespian Jo Kukathas, eloquently wrote on Facebook:

“Rather than say don’t stand up for BLM, stand up for that as well as the other injustices that most compel you to stand up and speak … As the BLM movement gains traction worldwide we Malaysians can add to the list of other people being treated unjustly by the state and by society here – orang asli, migrants, Indian men, indigenous people, Africans, refugees, stateless people and ask why. We can also ask why we still have a race based political and economic system of government where privilege is not yet a dirty word.” 

Jo Kukathas

Yes, each and every one of these lives matter. But in responding to Black Lives Matter by simply saying that “all lives matter” (some are going even as far as to say that the focus on black people in itself is racist) is essentially silencing the voices and experiences of a large group of people – again, within the context of predominantly white countries – who have been oppressed, dehumanised, murdered over and over again.

Side note: I think we also need to look inwards at ourselves and ask the difficult questions about our relationship to racism, and why some of us feel like black lives can’t matter unless ours matter first. I am trying to read a lot of books now featuring minority voices to learn more, and to ask questions of myself. It’s not always comfortable but it is necessary (happy to talk more about books to read, hit me up). Update: Linking a couple of social media posts by Malaysians I have come across for us to think about our own anti-blackness/browness: click here and here.

The term “All Lives Matter” first emerged in the US in response to Black Lives Matter as a mechanism to deny this oppression, to validate the very racist institutions that perpetuate such injustices on black people, and by white supremacist. Words have meaning and when you say “all lives matter”, what you’re essentially doing is amplifying the voice of white supremacists hell bent on maintaining the status quo.

The fact is that even though white people are a very, very small minority in Malaysia, we too have suffered at the hands of the very system Black Lives Matter are fighting again. You and I rightly believe that racism is bad, and that each and every one of our lives are important. We believe this because chances are, many of us have felt victimised by racism (all our different ethnic groups in Malaysia – whether majority or minority have screamed discrimination at one point or another).

This is unavoidable in Malaysia, of course, because the fabric of our political system is rooted in race. But race is a construct of our colonisers – yes, white people – who sought to divide us to maintain their rule and power against us. So, you know all the fighting that we are doing against each other, they started it. And the legacy lives on.

So, why are we all having such a visceral response to global event surrounding Black Lives Matter now – whether we support it or otherwise? That BLM is a US movement gives us the distance to talk about race because it is so difficult to have those conversations in Malaysia about ourselves. We were all raised to speak about it in whispers, if at all. We worry about the Sedition Act. Newspapers might get shut down by the Printing Presses and Publications Act. Our posts on social media might get us charged under the Multimedia and Communications Act. Until recently, we’d get kicked out of universities due to the University and University Colleges Act.

All of these laws have roots in colonial legislation. Our silence – even today, over 60 years after Merdeka (at least for Semenanjung) – is still being legislated by white legacy. Let’s not even start on the world order where white countries are seen as “leaders of the free world”, or in the case of Australia, “deputy sheriff” of Asia.

Many of us Malaysians are standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter because like ours, black lives matter. We are standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter because the institutions that are oppressing them are also (and have been for centuries) doing the same to us. We are standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter because we see them and we hear them.

Your life matters too. I see you, and I hear you, and I stand by you. But I also see, hear and stand by alongside the black people in the US, UK and in other parts of the world. The only way that every life can matter is when Black Lives Matter too.

Why I don’t think the #blackouttuesdays black squares worked

I uploaded a couple of posts from black people and organisations (in the US and the UK) yesterday onto my Instagram Stories asking people to stop posting the black squares on their social media to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and the protests across the country (and other parts of the world) following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police.

The black squares flooded social media yesterday in response to a movement started by two black women in the music industry for Tuesday to be a day of reflection – it asked that those in industry to pause their operations for a day – as part of their #theshowmustbepaused initiative.

The posts I shared were concerns by those who noticed that the #blacklivesmatter hashtag was filled with the black squares as opposed to vital information about what was happening with the protests on the ground, and how people can help. I removed them however after a couple of conversations with friends who had DMed me about how these signs of solidarity can happen alongside the sharing of all of this information.

Others like Lizzo also told people that if they wanted to post the black squares, then to use the #blackouttuesday hashtag instead. So, I took her lead and replaced those posts with a suggestion that if people wanted to use the black squares as their way of showing solidarity, to just avoid using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag. Nonetheless, all day, I couldn’t help but wonder if the black squares did more harm than good.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that people from across the globe are showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter. I think there’s a lot to be said about visibility and awareness, and I know from private conversations I’m having, that the events in the US are making my friends and myself question our own relationship to racism.

The discomfort I felt yesterday about the black squares were rooted in two thoughts:

Our behaviour as users

I think as social media users, we also enjoy being part of something larger than us, and that makes it easy for us to latch on to campaigns and initiatives like these, often without thinking about the implications of our actions. It’s partly to do with us as humans, but also to do with how social media platforms work – all the features they offer us encourage, or rather push us towards, this kind of behaviour. Everything that can needs to go viral. And we lap it all up. This is the affective nature of social media.

The political theorist Jodi Dean described this quite aptly in discussing affective networks.

The loops and repetitions of the acephalous circuit of drive describe the movement of the networks of communicative capitalism, the ways its flows capture subjects, intensities, and aspirations. Accompanying each repetition, each loop or reversal, is a little nugget of enjoyment.

Jodi Dean, Affective Networks

To be in a loop, of course, means that there is no break. This is when fatigue can set in, and consequently, drive through a sense of hopelessness (my friend Amelia and I wrote a piece about the networked affect related to the Bersih movement in Malaysia about this). Being stuck in a loop can also have a another effect – the repetitive images of black squares yesterday likely flattened the tension, sentiments and anger that has driven the Black Lives Matters movement to the peak of our consciousness over the past week. In this sense, the black squares served as both a dampener and a diversion.

Social media as ‘platform’

Following on from the above, I think social media platforms refusal to take responsibility (yes, yes, I know Twitter’s @jack is in favour at the moment because he is seemingly standing up to Donald Trump, but Twitter’s history suggests that it is not the noble organisation we may think it is) for the activities that occur on their platforms. Just as how they say that they are not publishers, but merely a platform through which publishers can push their content.

There’s a lot of debate about this, of course, and more learned scholars than myself as engaging in more informed discourse surrounding this issue. But I think what is clear is that this sense of being able to choose what their responsibilities are make it easy for them to – at best, take a hands-off approach to moderating content, but worst, pro-actively silence voices they disagree with (whether through censorship or being complicit by silence and refusal to act).

What I mean by this, at least with regards to the square boxes, is that the social media platforms – and I will call out Instagram as a key example of this because that’s where I saw the most squares (at one point, I counted at least 10 square boxes in a row) – could have done something about the flooding of #blacklivesmatter with those images. They could, if they wanted to, just remove black squares or at least amplify the other images from the hashtag. They could also fix their algorithms so that just because I liked one black square that it doesn’t show me millions of others (or at least 10 in a row).

Again, Jodi Dean can help us understand the effect of thinking of social media platforms as a bastion for the strengthening of democracy, as she discusses what she calls communicative capitalism.

The concept of communicative capitalism tries to capture this strange merging of democracy and capitalism. It does so by highlighting the way networked communications bring the two together

Jodi Dean, Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics

No doubt, the past decade or so have shown many examples of how the existence of social media platforms have helped citizens around the world speak out to power, injustice and oppression. But to merely accept this at face value risks taking a deterministic view of social media (as platforms), but also trusting Platforms to have our best interest at heart. The fact is, they don’t. It is not surprising that Instagram did not appear to have done anything about those black squares; it is owned by Facebook, and only days ago, its CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg chose – in my view – to stand on the wrong side of history by actively choosing to wash his hands clean of issues surrounding hate speech and race (including a threat of violence by the US President).

Without wanting to speak for them, this is what black people are marching for. They exist in a system where the institutions (actively) work against them.

By the time I went to bed last night, my timelines were filled with black squares – and not just when I was looking at the #blacklivesmatter hashtag. I know that many people who understood the nuances of the campaign were still sharing links, images, posts on what was happening on ground and how others – especially non-blacks – can help (donate, be anti-racist, etc). I saw some of them yes, and I also saw many angry post by black people upset that the images from the protest – including violence against the protestors by the authorities – that have filled the #blacklivesmatter hashtag has been drowned by black squares.

The problem is, I had to actively look for these posts amid a sea black squares (using the #blackouttuesday hashtag only) so even a lot of other information weren’t coming through and that is why I don’t think that #blackouttuesday worked.

This is not a passive aggressive post – this is me calling you out.

“Whenever we beg for nuances, for our difference to be articulated, for more diversity and accuracy in how our communities are described, in the characters written for ‘black’ actors on stage, on television, or in film, our voices are either silenced or ignored”

Inua Ellams, Cutting Through (in The Good Immigrant)

I am reading this great book right now, and I’d encourage everyone – not just those from ‘minority races’ – to get a copy.

That line from Ellams hit hard and reminded me of this incident in one of our PhD programme’s work-in-progress sessions where a colleague was presenting a chapter of their work, which attached the descriptor “a fan of colour” to quotes from interviewees. This distinction was important in the work because they were making a point about the voices of “people of colour” in a white-dominated fandom.

I did ask, however, why they opted to describe the individuals as “fans of colour” (to anonymise identities) and not, for example, just describe where they came from or what they identified with. I would, for example, always prefer to be referred to as Malaysian rather than a BAME person (Black and Minority Ethnic, as is so often used in the UK). They paused for a moment and said, it’s not something that they had thought about before.

Which, to me, is a good enough response – that’s the purpose of these WIP sessions anyway. I acknowledged this, saying perhaps it’s something to consider and tried to explain why I felt so. But their supervisor – a white person who was also chairing the session – cut me off and said (I paraphrase), “I don’t see a problem with using that phrase” and proceeded to call on the next person.

I was mortified to be called out like that in the room. For one, what is academia without discourse. But more significantly, I was extremely offended that my voice as a ‘BAME’ was shut down so quickly by a white person in a position of power.

I think back to that incident because I still feel that I didn’t articulate well enough why I thought my colleague should reconsider her phrasing. In discussing the diversity of communities and cultures that make up ‘black’ people in England, Ellams so articulately wrote: “Despite these obvious nuances, phrases like ‘black-on-black crime’ or ‘black community’ are used to suggest a monolith, it is portrayed as dysfunctional, rebellious, animalistic and mutinous.” Part of me wishes I was this articulate about the conflation of identities in making my point.

But I think also of what is happening in the US at the moment, where according to Ellams, the term ‘black’ was “an act of defiance, self-identification, and as a way to distance themselves from the ‘African’ label, which had abundantly negative connotations at the time”.

I think of the anger I’ve been feeling over the past couple of weeks at the injustice surrounding ‘people of colour’ in Malaysia, the UK, US and around the world, and the number of white people – my friends – who have responded with “not all white people” or “this doesn’t affect you” and more.

I think about how they have to just be better. Not just ‘white people’ but anyone who wields power and have utilised that privilege to silence minority voices. Over the past couple of weeks, the Malaysian authorities have been hauling up ‘illegal’ migrant workers, leading to clusters of Covid-19 infections among those communities – and many people think this is a good thing.

This is not a passive aggressive post – this is me calling you out.

Racism isn’t just about violence against people from other races. It’s not just about lynching, about hurting. Staying silent, silencing people, perpetuating systems of injustice, making excuses for other people’s microaggression – these are acts of violence too.

It’s not enough to just be not racist, or a bad person. But can you be a better person? ‘Fans of colour’ isn’t necessarily wrong or offensive, but is that enough? When you have the power and opportunity to craft your own words – and the privilege of the PhD viva to defend your decisions – why not opt to see these people. To give them a voice. To elevate their identities. To humanise them. Especially if the critical premise of the discussion is that these are marginalised voices in a white-dominated fandom.

Not being racist is not a passive act. Not being racist requires action – whether it’s speaking out against oppression, defending others in the face of injustice, and calling all of these out. That’s what we mean when we tell you that you have to be ‘anti-racist’, instead of just ‘not racist’.

It will be difficult, and uncomfortable, no doubt, but that is the every day reality for many ‘people of colour’. So, what can you do? Lots of people are already sharing things online. Keep at it, even if you feel like you’re alienating your audience (that discomfort you’re feeling is theirs too so normalise your speaking out). But more than that, call out any injustice you see in your daily lives (especially if you’re in a position of power), actively defend anyone being treated unequally, write to your MPs and other politicians, send letters to the editor, donate to groups working on the ground (yes, share your wealth).

As far as what is happening in the US is concerned, donate if you can afford it. I made a small contribution to the Minnesota Freedom Fund a couple of days ago to help bail out protestors who are being arrested. But they’ve been overwhelmed with responses and have suggested other organisations to donate to: read for details if you can help

Do better friends. And actively fight against inequality and injustice. In solidarity. ✊

Note: I originally wrote this for Facebook but decided that I should post it up here too. So there was never a title for this; instead, I chose a line from the article which best reflected my intentions although it makes no sense without context.

This is not normal

It’s almost two weeks since my last post on here. There were many reasons: a bit of laziness, some trying out new things but most of all, I’ve been pretty busy doing work. In fact, I’ve been crossing things off my list of work to be done that this must have been the most productive 15 days I’ve had in a long time.

By now, I’ve set a general routine in my life. I try to sleep before midnight so I get a full night’s sleep and have an early start. After my daily mindfulness exercises, I’ll sort my breakfast out, take a shower and then get on to work. I’ll break for lunch then chat with some friends in the evening or go for a walk before I make dinner. Then I plonk myself in front of the TV before bed again. I have a different set of clothes I wear during my “work time” and in the evenings/weekend.

Things are starting to feel … normal.

While I sit by the window working, I can see that the pub across from me is still shut and the buses mostly empty. There are a bit more cars on the road than in the early days of the lockdown but still not that many. When I go to do my shopping every seven to 10 days, its still one-in-one-out. Sometimes the lines are really long. During my evening walks, people are being really respectful of staying apart from each other – crossing the road when there are people coming from the opposite direction or making space for each other.

In short, many people – myself included – have seem to have adapted to this “new” life. I’m one of the privileged few of course: I can afford rent and my shopping, I live on my own so I don’t have to deal with being cooped up with other people, and I have a great support network of family and friends who I can turn to when I’m feeling a bit isolated.

But things are not normal though, no matter how it all feels. The reality is that a high number of people are still getting infected by the virus on a daily basis around the world, and so many are still dying. Amazing healthcare professionals and other key workers are still out there risking their lives to keep us as safe as possible. People are still losing their justs all the time because of this, many are starving.

We don’t know yet how long this will go on for (I can’t even remember how long it’s been), and how it will look like after.

So, in the comfort of my home, where I seem to have adapted well to the circumstance, I constantly need to remind myself that nothing about this is normal. I’m not even thinking about this from the philosophical perspective of what is normal anyway?

The world has changed, at least for now, although things may well revert to how it was before at some point in the future. When we get to wherever that is, we’ll need to adjust and adapt again.

Because this is not normal.

Malay(sian) Music Playlist

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been listening a bit to Malaysian legend Sheila Majid and our contemporary superstar Yuna on Instagram during their live shows during MCO/lockdown/quarantine/your choice of term.

Just yesterday, Sheila sang Gerimis Semalam, as a tribute to Indonesian singer Glenn Fredly who passed away earlier this week. When I read the news of his death a couple of nights ago, I turned to YouTube to look for his song Januari.

As I started singing along to these songs, I was surprised to realise that I still remembered a lot of the lyrics. Funny how these things stick in your head!

Anyway, as a result, I started digging out songs in the Malay (and Indonesia) language I used to know. I thought I’d get some help walking down memory lane so turned to Facebook and asked friends to recommend some too.

The result is the Spotify playlist below. I’ve put in 37 songs from across the decades (maybe less current), primarily from Malaysia (with a few Indonesian ones thrown in). Most of them are in Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia, although I did include one in English by the legend that is Sudirman because I just love that song.

Even if you don’t understand Malay, have a listen – maybe you’ll enjoy some of the songs!

Also, check out these other playlists created by others: folk singer-songwriter Azmyl Yunor created this playlist with lots of classics which date back to earlier than the one I created, while the fabulous and creative Jiman Casablancas made this playlist, which has interesting selection from big names but less known songs!

Beeston so busy

I have just returned home from doing my grocery run. It’s hard work; I’m trying not to take public transport so I walk about 30 minutes into the town centre and then lug all my things back for 30 minutes. In between, I make stops at the Asian supermarket to get some specialty items before heading to Fred Hallams (a local independent grocer). I then head into Tesco to get everything else I need.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my shopping weekly, just to practice physical distancing as I best can. This week, I found that I had enough to last me over 10 days (even the junk food!) so I waited until today to head out.

What a mistake! Beeston, the town centre I usually head to for shopping, was so busy.

I just hope it’s an anomaly as people are navigating reduced hours over the next few days with Easter weekend, and not people just getting tired of staying in. This week, I have noticed that there seemed to be more cars on the road (I work right by my window facing a main road) and there’s definitely been more people out on the streets ‘exercising’ because the weather’s been really lovely.

Myself included, of course.

At any one point today, I noticed that there were queues of about 10 people all along the high street, either waiting to get into supermarkets, butchers, banks or pharmacies. At one point, it was not possible to walk down the street and keep to the advised distance (2 metres) from people because there were queues and just people walking everywhere.

Plus, that person behind me in the queue to get into Tesco just kept coming closer and closer for that 30 minutes we were waiting for!

I can appreciate that cabin fever must surely have hit for some people, but I hope people are still staying in and being as careful as possible. I’d really like to see less people next week when I head out to stock up my fridge again.

Taking the weekend off

Friends who know me well will tell you that I’m someone who finds it hard to relax. I think it comes from just years and years of always keeping myself busy. It hasn’t always been work (in the career sense) but certainly projects that takes up a lot of time. I try not to complain because in most cases, I do enjoy working on them but it can get pretty tiring and overwhelming sometimes.

Over the past few years, however, chasing the PhD has been different. I tried to keep it up at the start – still working on my storytelling projects and even published a book in the first year or so – but soon realised that it was just not sustainable.

For one, working towards a massive four-year deadline means that it’s so easy to lose sense of the idea of time. Then, there were other aspects of academia to navigate to make sure that I finished the PhD ready for the world – working on research projects, publishing in journals, attending and organising conferences, and more. I’m slowly learning how all-consuming academia can be.

The fact is, even though I completed the whole PhD process late last year, it’s all been a blur since with teaching, marking and catching up on academic-related commitments that took a backseat as I attempted to finish up my thesis.

But it took a bloody pandemic to make me force a proper weekend on myself. I went to bed on Friday telling myself that I should sleep in (I even added blankets over my curtains to block out the morning light) and not do any work for two days.

I woke up at my usual time on Saturday – body clock and all that – but decided to make myself a massive English breakfast to mark the distinction between a weekend and a week day. Then, I spent a couple of hours cleaning my flat – being indoors ALL the time makes it dustier than usual – and catching up with some friends and family on video chats. I settled down for the night by watching Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat, which was showing on YouTube for 48 hours as part of Universal and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Show Must Go On where they release one musical each Friday.

NIki pouring the drizzle into his cake
I could hear the sizzling still when I drizzled the lemon juice onto the cake.

Today, I lazed in bed quite a bit in the morning before baking the most amazing Lemon Drizzle (if I do say so myself), and sharing my adventures on my Instagram account. Then I decided to take advantage of the lovely T-shirst and shorts weather by going for a walk to the nearby nature reserve (it was less busy than two weeks ago so that’s promising!). Hence the GIF (which isn’t working!) at the top of this post. I’ve since had a shower, joined a community Zoom social chat and then had some leftover fried rice from Friday for dinner.

As I write this post, I’m just finishing glass of white wine and about to lie on the sofa and catch up on some TV. Hmm … maybe pour myself a nice Gin and Tonic first.

I’ll be ready for the upcoming week in the morning. I hope.

A shot I took along my walk today.

Easter break is here!

I’m feeling quite tired today, so I thought I’d save the blogging I had meant to do earlier this week for the weekend. It’s already been a few days, so what’s another day or two, right?

Then, as I was cooking fried rice for dinner, I realised that today is Friday – it’s not just the end of the working week, but also the last day before the university breaks up for a month for Easter. So I thought I’d mark it with a post.

I don’t usually teach on Fridays but because we’ve moved teaching online using mostly asynchronous methods, I check in on the student forum discussions and respond to teaching-related emails on a daily basis so that no one gets ignored or left out. I have students who are still in government-imposed quarantine in some countries, so they are alone and struggling a bit so I want to be accessible where possible.

Teaching aside, this week has been pretty full-on now that I think about it. Midweek, I managed to scratch the last item on the “urgent” to do list I had put up on my living room wall over a week ago. Yesterday, I made a new list and happy to announce that I have scratched-off another half by this evening!

I hope that this means that I’m more adjusted to not just working from home, but also less stressed and anxious about the circumstances we’re all in. I suspect having three video calls this week alone with my family (which was what I wanted to blog about earlier in the week) and several with my close friend Steve helped.

Speaking of working from home, my neck and back has been killing me the past two weeks because I don’t actually have a proper table and chair for long-term working. So a couple of days ago, I set up a standing desk using all the different boxes from kitchenware I had purchased in 2015 when I moved in but for some reason, never threw out.

My dad was a hoarder, so clearly, I’m my father’s son! Good use of boxes from the microwave oven, bread toaster, electric grill and knife set for the standing desk (I’m using the box for the kettle to prop up my laptop for sitting down on a different table)!

It’s not very stable, but I hope it’ll last!

Anyway, I’m going to try to take the weekend off as much as possible just to unwind and to make the days different from work days at home. The weather is meant to be lovely on Sunday (19 degrees!) so I’m going to try to get outside for some exercise.

Thinking about my late father

If my dad was still around, he’d be 78 today.

It’s still surreal to think that he’s been gone for over 4 years now (here’s the tribute I wrote to him in my column back in 2016); the truth is, I think of him less as my life without him has normalised over the years. In fact, some days, when he springs to mind, I still have a moment of shock realising that he’s no longer here.

Tai Che (far right) dug out and posted this photo today in memory of dad. It’s the family in winter of 1995 visiting Windsor Castle, our family’s first long-haul trip together.

Today was especially difficult because I’ve spent the past few days wondering what he would make of the world today. My dad has always been my intellectual hero, and so much of lessons I’ve learned in life was due to conversations we’ve had and us bouncing things off each other (to my mum, it often sounds like we’re arguing!).

What would he have said to help me make sense of everything that’s currently going on?

The result was that I wasn’t as productive as I’d hope to be over the weekend – alright, fine, I completely failed to find any motivation – partially because my brain and body just shut down from all the anxieties and stress over the past few weeks. Truth is, the whole weekend was a blur.

This weekend was also the birthday of my brother-in-law Rizal and my Tai Che (eldest sister), so I think missing my family, and worrying about them, also contributed to my body just shutting down.

But I got back up and running today, so hopefully a more productive week ahead for me.